Switzerland v Cameroon, Wednesday 24th November 2022, 1pm

Normally when Paul and I go to a tournament we pace ourselves. It’s a maximum of one game per day, but more often an average of one every two days or even just one a week. With the stadiums being so close to each other in Qatar I got carried away and on two of our four full days in Doha I scheduled in two matches.

After our first two game day it became apparent that it was a bit much. I re-sold the tickets for one of the remaining games and we resolved to take it a bit easier. Paul took it so much easier that he decided to skip the Switzerland game and have a day lounging around on the cruise ship. Not a bad alternative.

I was still energetic enough to take in a one o’clock game and took the shuttle from the boat area to the usual bus hub. It was mainly Swiss fans travelling but two fellas in Cameroon shirts received a friendly cheer when they hopped on.

The fixture was at the Al Janoub stadium. It’s the ground that is reputed to look like a vagina, although I’ve not seen one shaped like that. Perhaps I’ve led a sheltered life. It’s also another one of those grounds where half of the seats will be removed after the tournament and donated to good causes. I’d like to see four seat sections made into benches and just put up randomly around the world. Benches are always good and benches with a World Cup heritage are even better.

There was a ten minute walk from the bus park to the ground. I passed a bloke who was looking for a ticket but it was only once I was inside that I realized that I could probably have arranged the transfer of Paul’s unused seat. It was so much easier when there were paper tickets. I hope he got sorted.

I was a little closer to the kick-off time for this one and it was busier outside the stadium. The queue for free flags was far longer than at previous games, possibly because of the Cameroon colours. I’d be happy to re-upholster chairs with that flag.

There was still time for some shopping though and I picked up a World Cup baseball cap for Harry from the FIFA shop. The lad who served me told me that he was from Tunisia and had been given a three-month working visa for the tournament. He was hoping for an extension afterwards, although I imagine that the workforce will drop substantially in the days after the final. Perhaps he’ll get a spot on the seat removal team. I’d like to think so, he was a friendly chap.

My seat was in the lower tier for a change, but in direct sunlight. I waited until close to kick-off before taking my position but it was too hot for comfort. There were plenty of empty seats around me and in other parts of the stadium so I moved back a few rows. It didn’t take long for the sun to creep towards me so I cast my eyes around for a longer-term alternative. There were lots of seats in the opposite corner still empty and so I made my way around the back of the goal and across to the shaded section.

It was easy enough to get past the stewards who were checking tickets and I modified the old ‘two cups of tea’ trick that we used as kids to avoid showing tickets that we didn’t have to get into the North Stand at Ayresome. With a coke in one hand, my shopping bag in the other and a confident point to what I was purporting to be my seat, I was straight in.

The view was similar from the new position, but the comfort was much improved. Not only did I have no direct sunlight, but there was also cold air blasting out from underneath my seat. It doesn’t get much better than that and it was no surprise to see a lot of the seats around me fill up as the match progressed.

As you might have seen on the telly, the football was nothing special. Switzerland took the win courtesy of a bloke who was originally from Cameroon and who didn’t celebrate after scoring. I can get that you don’t need to rub it in, but he looked like he had scored an own-goal. I’m not sure I’d be one for big celebrations anyway if I were a footballer, but I’m sure if I were to score in a World Cup game I might at least manage to force a smile across my chops.

I took my time at the end and by taking the bus rather than the shuttle to the metro I avoided the crowds. There was time for a wander around the market area at Souq Waqif and I had a look in some of the small shops down narrow alleys. They sold a mixture of tourist tat, industrial tools and rolls of cloth that looked as if they had been awaiting a buyer since the days when all that area was still desert. The best shop was one that sold vintage taxidermy and had a mangy looking lion. Sadly, I didn’t have the luggage allowance but I was sorely tempted.

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